Gummo is an experimental American film released in 1997. It marks the directorial debut of then-23-year-old Harmony Korine. The film is set in present-day Xenia, Ohio – a small city that was hit by a tornado in 1974. It was shot, however, in Korine’s hometown, Nashville.
Frustrated by romanticized depictions of contemporary American life, Korine sought instead to create a film that felt true to his experiences growing up in Tennessee. Gummo comprises a series of loose vignettes that occur throughout the decimated Xenia, weaving together everyday violence, poverty, destruction, abuse, loneliness and teenage boredom with moments of Vaudevillian humor, absurdity and gritty tenderness.
Gummo is characterized by bold experimentation and pastiche – both narratively and visually. Korine cast mostly local non-actors, including people he met at bowling alleys and fast-food restaurants. Korine discovered its two leads – Jacob Reynolds and Nick Sutton – while watching cable T.V. (Reynolds in The Road to Wellville and a Dunkin Donuts commercial; Sutton in a drug prevention episode of The Sally Jesse Raphael Show about sniffing paint). Gummo also features Linda Manz, Mark Gonzales and Chloë Sevigny, who designed costumes for the film.
Although Gummo is scripted, many of its scenes were improvised or developed spontaneously. The film itself is a collage-like assemblage of traditional 35mm film, home-movie-style VHS and Hi-8 footage, and Polaroid photographs – shot partly by the cast itself. “It's like looking at a book of private photos,” Korine has said of this approach. “There's a picture of you in front of a castle or maybe a monument. And next to that is a picture of your grandfather on the toilet. And next to that is a picture you took of Michael Jackson. If you looked at them on their own without knowing the context, then they would seem singular or random. But just because one is next to the other, a kind of narrative comes through. That goes along with Gummo. That's how Gummo was written.”
Gummo proved critically divisive upon its release, yet its startling originality won Korine praise from many distinguished filmmakers including Jean Luc Godard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog. “Venomous in story; genius in character; victorious in structure; teasingly gentle in epilogue; slapstick in theme; rebellious in nature; honest at heart; inspirational in its creation and with contempt at the tip of its tongue,” wrote Gus Van Sant, “Gummo is a portrait of small-town Middle American life that is both bracingly realistic and hauntingly dreamlike.”
This Spring, Supreme will release a collection featuring imagery from Gummo and original artwork by Harmony Korine. The collection consists of a Coaches Jacket, Football Top, Hooded Sweatshirt, two T-Shirts and two Skateboards.
Available April 28th.
Available in Japan April 30th.